Family Law:  Grandparent Visitation in Washington

In 1973, the Washington State legislature authorized the rights of grandparents to petition the court for visitation with their grandchildren. In 2000 the US Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville, ruled the statute unconstitutional. After the legislature amended the statute, in 2005 the Washington State Supreme Court in the case In re Parentage of C.A.M.A., declared the statute unconstitutional. As a result, while the statute has remained on the books, there has been no right to for grandparents to petition the court for visitation of their grandchildren in the State of Washington. The root of the problem was that the statue stated created a rebuttable presumption that visitation with a grandparent is in the best interest of the child. The statue gave the presumption to the grandparents, not the parents, infringing upon the constitutional rights of fit parents to control the visitation of their children.

In March, 2018, the legislature approved a new statute, granting relatives, including but not limited to grandparents, the right to seek visitation with a child through the courts. The statute presumes that a fit parent’s decision to deny visitation is in the best interest of the child, and places the burden of proof on the petitioner’s to overcome this presumption by clear and convincing evidence that the child would likely suffer harm or substantial risk of harm if the visitation between them and the child was not granted.

The petitioner may only petition the court if 1) they have an ongoing and substantial relationship with the child, 2) they are a relative of the child, and 3) the child is likely to suffer harm or substantial risk of harm if visitation is denied.

The court can order the petitioner to pay the respondent’s attorney fees in advance of any hearing after considering the financial resources of all parties. If granted, the petitioner will have to pay all transpiration costs associated with the visitations.

If you see the need to get a court order for visitation rights of a child, or feel you need to have your rights protected, please contact an attorney at Mogren, Glessner & Ahrens to discuss your rights under this new statute.